Remember Mike, the dad on The Brady Bunch, forever hunched over his drafting table while Alice, the housekeeper, regales him with yet another tale of Brady kids gone rambunctiously wrong? Although he seemed very attached to his mechanical pencil and rolls of architectural drawings, he’d have been far better off with a computer and CAD software.
CAD, or Computer Aided Design, makes the life of architects, engineers, and designers of various sorts a whole lot easier. It’s been around for a few decades now, and its applications just keep getting broader. Once familiar with the workings of this software, one can produce technical diagrams in record time, and mistakes are just a delete button away from being eradicated. In fact, it’s very much like a word processor for graphics, not words. Nowadays, for all intents and purposes, the drafting table, pencils and rulers are pretty much extinct from usage by architects and engineers, much like The Brady Bunch television show.
Remember the days of typewriters and carbon paper? If you do, you just dated yourself, because these haven’t been in general usage for quite some time. Word processing software and computers in general have relegated these instruments to become dusty on the shelves of historical museums. Why laboriously copy an object by hand, over and over again, when you can cut and paste your way to duplication perfection using CAD? There are even special features within CAD that allow for replication of a drawing detail in an array, meaning it is automatically replicated a specified number of times while being spaced precise distances apart along a straight line or circle.
Let’s look at a simple example of how CAD makes our life so much easier. Figure l shows a single gear tooth, drawn in CAD. Figure 2 shows the tooth automatically replicated ten times and displayed in a circular array, each tooth a precise space away from its nearest neighbor. Figure 3 shows all of the gear teeth connected together with lines to form a completed drawing. Before the advent of CAD, an engineer would have had to replicate each gear tooth by hand using physical tools like a compass, pencil, and scale ruler.
Figure 1 – A Single Gear Tooth Drawn With CAD
Figure 2 – A 10 Tooth Circular Array Created With CAD
Figure 3 – A Completed CAD Drawing of a 10 Tooth Gear
Another useful feature of CAD is how it can be used to annotate drawings, that is, put notes, labels, and dimensions on them. This nifty feature has rendered precise penmanship obsolete. Gone are the days when student engineers labored by hand and pencil to produce precisely the lettering and numbering conventions that are acceptable within their discipline. Poor penmanship could be disastrous to both the engineer’s career and the final product due to the difficulty it would present in reading and proper interpretation. CAD produces a level of uniformity never before possible, but of course one still needs to know how to spell!
If you look back through my blog articles, you’ll see many diagrams that I created with CAD software, thus rendering complicated technical concepts easier to understand. Illustrations are most often easier to understand by the general population than the written word, and as one of my past blogs was titled, A Picture is Worth a Thousand of Them, “them” being words, of course. I also routinely use CAD software in other aspects of my profession to create everything from electrical schematics to flow charts, PowerPoint presentations slides, and engineering expert reports.